When Louisville’s baseball team (46-12) plays Rice (54-12) this Friday in the Cards’ first-ever College World Series appearance, the players will likely recall the extra hard work they were able to do over the past year thanks to a few secret weapons that were recently added.
It’s no coincidence that the same year U of L gained access to a new all-weather hitting-pitching complex and a giant indoor practice facility to go along with its artificial-turf stadium, the Cards have gone where no Kentucky-based team has ever gone before.
“Without a doubt, our facilities played a big role in this season,” first-year Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell on Tuesday. “To have success, you must have first-class facilities and a strong commitment from the administration.”
One of the key additions to the baseball program was the Shad Mason Hack Shack, a facility (pictured left) that allowed the Cards to have full-scale pitching and batting drills regardless of the weather.
The $300,000 building is named for the late son of former U of L head coach John Mason. Shad was an avid baseball fan who passed away in 1997 at age 12 after a battle with cancer.
Current players have had 24-hour access to the Hack Shack via a coded entry system.
Also, with construction of the $8 million Trager Indoor Facility (pictured below left), built primarily for football, the baseball program had a warm, suitable place to practice during the coldest months of the year. And the artificial surface in the Trager complex is identical to the Cards’ official baseball field at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Of course, Patterson Stadium itself paid huge benefits by providing U of L with a first-class facility that greatly reduced the number of rainouts and gave the Cards the opportunity to reach the 40-win plateau in advance of the NCAA Tournament pairings. Even a couple more cancellations likely would have prevented U of L from receiving a bid at all.
“Let’s not fool anybody – the players are the key,” McDonnell emphasized. “But to get the players, you have to have excellent facilities and support from the administration. Once that’s in place, you have to have assistant coaches who work very hard. We’ve had the support from the school, and our assistants have worked extremely hard.”
The result is a trip to Omaha, which would have been virtually impossible without the advent of new, top-notch facilities that gave the Cards a chance to refine their skills in a hurry.
Now, with the unprecedented media exposure its super season has produced, Louisville will be able to show off its new setup to a new generation of recruits. Now that all the pieces are in place, they’ll be called on to sustain the Cards’ rise to national prominence.
College World Series Schedule
Game 1 - Rice (51-12) vs. Louisville (46-22), Friday, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 - Mississippi State (38-20) vs. North Carolina (53-13), 7 p.m.
Losing teams play Sunday at 2 p.m. Winners play Sunday at 7 p.m.
The U of L Alumni office is promoting the following locations throughout Louisville for Cardinal fans to gather for this weekend’s games.
Game Watch Locations:
- Fourth Street Live! - Fourth and Muhammad Ali Blvd.
- Buffalo Wild Wings - 3584 Springhurst Blvd.
- Buffalo Wild Wings - 6801 Dixie Hwy.
- The Pizza Place - Taylorsville and Richland
- Fox and Hound - 302 Bullitt Lane
- Tailgaters - 2787 S. Floyd Street
- Beef O'Brady's - Central Avenue across from Patterson Stadium
NOTE: Daily columnist Ron Steiner also appears on the Red & Blue Review, a weekly statewide TV sports show (Insight Ch. 2), is published weekly in the Voice-Tribune and is a guest each Friday (5:45 p.m.) on the Cardinal Insider radio program (KRDS, 790AM). He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].